The Cake Eaters Mary Stuart Masterson

The Cake Eaters Mary Stuart Masterson
Presumably, with a title like The Cake Eaters, this Hallmark slice of timeless Americana should have something to do with indulging in the incendiary decadence that life's rich pageant has to offer. But you wouldn't know it from watching the film. There is a complex tapestry of familial intermingling and history, but little thematic focus, likely because too many storylines and characters crowd a brief running time preoccupied with capturing the intimate centre of moments that never carry quite enough weight. To clarify, Guy (Jayce Bartok), a small town musician gone abroad with hopes of success, returns home after learning of his mother's death. Problem is, he's a little too late. She's been buried and his stubborn social reject brother, Beagle (Aaron Stanford), won't let him forget he missed the funeral. Easy (Bruce Dern), the surviving patriarch, attempts to keep the peace, when not flirting with the available and somewhat sassy Marg (Elizabeth Ashley). Strangely enough, Marg's granddaughter, Georgia (Kristen Stewart), sets her sights on Beagle to pop her cherry, mainly because her deteriorative muscle disease, Friedrich's ataxia, could take her life anytime and her visible tics lead her to lower her standards. Add to this a subplot involving the fiancée Guy left behind when he ran off to the big city and you have far too much material to cover satisfactorily in 85 minutes. Typically, a director would simply mask thinly stretched characters and screen time by stylizing the film to cater to an overriding theme of connectedness, or taking life by the horns, and so on. But freshman helmswoman Mary Stuart Masterson miscalculates dramatic effect, stepping back from each scene, letting them unfold without any particular angle or perspective. The intention is to let the actors embody their characters and the events speak for themselves, but when there is so little to grasp onto, it's difficult to care. Only Kristen Stewart manages to give her character a bit of depth, going after what she wants in life while hinting at, but never dwelling on, the pain underneath. Of course, even this is limited, since the film is afraid to acknowledge any emotions of an unseemly nature. The DVD includes a commentary track, along with some deleted scenes, interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, which expand on character motivations and the humble, somewhat saccharine approach. (Alliance)